Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Introduction: read this first

Welcome & blog introduction
Welcome to my second blog. My main blog, nothing new under the sun, is for general personal and theological reflections, links, commentary and discussion. Please come over, check it out and join in sometime. This new blog is specifically for personal and health updates, frequently asked questions about my life with cancer, prayer points and discussion. Feel free to browse and make comments, even if you don't know me personally. Latest updates will appear at the top of the page as things develop.

About me
I am a twenty-eight year old Christian from Sydney, Australia recently diagnosed with cancer. My wife Jessica and I live in Camperdown and from this week will church at All Souls Anglican Church, Leichhardt, where I am beginning work serving part-time as a lay ministry assistant (we have just moved from St Barnabas' Anglican Church, Broadway), having recently completed a four-year Bachelor of Divinity from Moore Theological College.

Initial signs and diagnosis
Back in early October last year I began to lose my voice (mentioned here and here). It was a very stressful time at college and personally and so for many weeks, I simply rested my voice and waited for it to return, unfortunately missing some speaking engagements and mercifully giving my classmates more chance to speak.

However, after a couple of months, exams were over and life was slowing down, but my voice hadn't fully return so I went to get it checked out. A nasal endoscopy quickly discovered that my left vocal chord is paralysed, greatly reducing my volume and range. A CT scan the next day was intended to rule out one possible cause: a compressed nerve. This scan discovered a growth (3.5 by 3.0 by 2.5 cm) in the middle of my chest, extending between my oesophagus and the base of my trachea, and growing into my left main brochial tube, partially obstructing my breathing. I received this news on the 4th December and so regular readers might realise that all the posts since here are coloured by this news.

Weeks of tests and hospital visits ensued, at the end of which it has been determined that I have a primary squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aero-digestive tract. There are no secondary growths (praise God), but as it presently stands, the tumour is inoperable, being trickily located at the junction of primary tubes for food, breath and blood (aorta).

I began chemotherapy on 27th December and had my first radiotherapy session on 2nd January. I am physically tired and sometimes have difficulty concentrating, but am generally quite well. My breathing, which had been getting progressively more difficult throughout December (and which was affecting my energy and sleeping), has eased even in the last couple of days - another reason to rejoice.

It's hard to say exactly how Jessica and I are feeling, because there are many aspects to the experience and the last few weeks have been such a whirlwind of responses and new challenges. There is shock at the ugly presence of sickness and wrong in God's good world. There is sadness at lost or delayed plans. There are bouts of some anxiety and uncertainty, mixed with pragmatic necessities and reflective moments of insight and new perspectives. There is joy in the love of friends and family and the daily gifts God gives. There is a yearning for Christ to return and bring healing to his entire groaning world. Overall, we are feeling well in spirit, trusting the God who calls into existence the things that are not and raises the dead. There is no reason to fear, because the light has dawned on all of us who sit in darkness, in the shadow of death.

Prayer points
For those who pray, here are some suggestions.
Give thanks:
• For so many positive reasons to rejoice: life and new life in Jesus; overwhelming support and offers of help; providential proximity to hospital (just a few hundred steps down the road); reasons to live found in all those around whom I can serve and from whom I receive so much; hope despite brokenness because Christ is the author of life and through his death destroyed the power of death and rescued us all from slavery to the fear of death.
• For a deeply encouraging celebration of 'God with us' over Christmas: God thinks this life is worth sharing - and fixing.
• For a health system that provides hours of medical expertise and attention, a wide variety of drugs and equipment for basically no charge.
• For easier breathing and sleeping since soon after treatment began.
• That the combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy are effective in reducing the size of the growth (down to nothing!).
• That side-effects will be minimal and for patience to endure what is necessary, growing in perseverence, character and hope.
• That Jessica and I would stay thankful, loving and hopeful, trusting God to give strength each day. "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lam 3.21-22)
There is more to come.


andrew said...

Hi Byron. I look forward to the more that is to come. My prayers, and those of Anthea's, feature you and Jess often. We are both encouraged by your faithfulness to God during these times (and aware that it can't be easy ...)

I read Psalm 13 this morning. It ends with:

"But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me."

Elwyn said...

Sometimes I feel extremely torn about the state of this world. On one hand, there is so much suffering in the world and I want Christ to return ASAP and end it all. On the other hand, we could all do with more time before His return as there are so many people who need our help and need to be introduced to Christ. Furthermore, there's selfish reasons such as how I'd like to marry and see the USA and see Neil Young & Crazy Horse play one more time. :-)